10 Books I Read in June: The Other Mrs., The Institute, and More

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June was a pretty good reading month for me. I read ten books and most of them were rated four stars or higher.

I think the biggest surprise for me this month was that I read a couple of middle-grade novels and I really enjoyed them.

Middle-grade isn’t a genre that I read very often. So to read two of them in one month and rate them four stars or higher was a surprise.

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THANKS FOR THE TROUBLE BY TOMMY WALLACH

1. Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

Rating 4/5

Thanks for the Trouble was a surprise hit for me. It was a fun read, but also had some serious topics mixed in. I think I would have enjoyed this even more if I had read it as a teen.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. But when he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, a girl who claims to be quite a bit older than she looks, he’ll discover there just might be a few things left worth living for. 

GHOST SQUAD BY CLARIBEL A. ORTEGA

2. Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

Rating: 4/5

This is one of the best middle-grade books I’ve read. It was a fun ride from the beginning to the end. I’m so glad I stumbled across this book.

Coco meets Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters in this action-packed supernatural fantasy.For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business. Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late. With the family dynamics of Coco and action-packed adventure of Ghostbusters, Claribel A. Ortega delivers both a thrillingly spooky and delightfully sweet debut novel.

Instead, an unprecedented wave of anti-black riots and lynchings swept the country for eight months. From April to November of 1919, the racial unrest rolled across the South into the North and the Midwest, even to the nation’s capital. Millions of lives were disrupted, and hundreds of lives were lost. Blacks responded by fighting back with an intensity and determination never seen before.

FROM THE DESK OF ZOE WASHINGTON BY JANAE MARKS

3. From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

Rating: 5/5

I really loved this middle-grade novel. I discovered my love for baking as a kid, so the baking element was something I could relate to and enjoyed reading about.

Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?

A crime he says he never committed.

Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.

But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.

REVIVAL BY TIM SEELEY AND MIKE NORTON

4. Revival by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton

Rating: 3/5

I decided to read this on a whim. It started out interesting enough; however, towards the end I started to lose my interest in the story.

For one day in rural central Wisconsin, the dead came back to life. Now it’s up to Officer Dana Cypress to deal with the media scrutiny, religious zealots, and government quarantine that has come with them.

In a town where the living have to learn to deal with those who are supposed to be dead, Officer Cypress must solve a brutal murder, and everyone, alive or undead, is a suspect. 

THE INSTITUTE BY STEPHEN KING

5. The Institute by Stephen King

Rating: 3/5

The Institute was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019. Unfortunately, I was let down by this. There was a lot of time spent on the kids going through experiments. Overall, I felt like not much happened.

In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis’s parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at The Institute, in a room that looks just like his own, except there’s no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did: Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and ten-year-old Avery Dixon. They are all in Front Half. Others, Luke learns, graduated to Back Half, “like the roach motel,” Kalisha says. “You check in, but you don’t check out.”

In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don’t, punishment is brutal. As each new victim disappears to Back Half, Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.

YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN BY LEAH JOHNSON

6. You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Rating: 3/5

I don’t typically gravitate to YA contemporary novels, but I’m so glad I read this. You Should See Me in a Crown was such a cute and fun read.

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true? 

WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH BY ELIZABETH ACEVEDO

7. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Rating: 4/5

I really enjoyed this. My love for cooking started at a young age, so I could relate to the main character when she talked about her love for cooking. I would definitely recommend With the Fire on High. It was a quick and entertaining read.

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

THE OTHER MRS. BY MARY KUBICA

8. The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

Rating: 3/5

This was a quick read that it kept me entertained. I did feel like the plot twist was very obvious and the ending felt rushed.

Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie.

But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. And as the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of what really happened that dark and deadly night. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light.

RED SUMMER BY CAMERON MCWHIRTER

9. Red Summer by Cameron McWhirter

Rating: No Rating

After World War I, black Americans fervently hoped for a new epoch of peace, prosperity, and equality. Black soldiers believed their participation in the fight to make the world safe for democracy finally earned them rights they had been promised since the close of the Civil War.

Instead, an unprecedented wave of anti-black riots and lynchings swept the country for eight months. From April to November of 1919, the racial unrest rolled across the South into the North and the Midwest, even to the nation’s capital. Millions of lives were disrupted, and hundreds of lives were lost. Blacks responded by fighting back with an intensity and determination never seen before.

Red Summer is the first narrative history written about this epic encounter. Focusing on the worst riots and lynchings—including those in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Charleston, Omaha and Knoxville—Cameron McWhirter chronicles the mayhem, while also exploring the first stirrings of a civil rights movement that would transform American society forty years later.

BINTI BY NNEDI OKORAFOR

10. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Rating: 3/5

I liked it. I don’t read novellas often because I always find myself wanting more. The same thing happened with this. It was good, but at the end, I wanted more.

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive. 

10 BOOK I READ IN JUNE 2020